Fiction betrays life

Real life flows without pause, lacks order, is chaotic, each story merging with all stories and hence never having a beginning or ending. Life in a work of fiction is a simulation in which that dizzying disorder achieves order, organization, cause and effect, beginning and end. The scope of a novel isn’t determined merely by the language in which it’s written but also by its temporal scheme, the manner in which existence transpires within it – its pauses and accelerations and the chronological perspective employed by the narrator to describe that narrated time.

Though there is a distance between words and events, there is always an abyss between real time and fictional time. … Novels have a beginning and an end and, even in the loosest and most disjointed ones, life takes on a discernible meaning, for we are presented with a perspective never provided by the real life in which we’re immersed. This order is an invention, an addition of the novelist, that dissembler who appears to recreate life when, in fact, he is rectifying it. Fiction betrays life, sometimes subtly, sometimes brutally, encapsulating it in a weft of words that reduce it in scale and place it within the reader’s reach. Thus the reader can judge it, understand it and, above all, live it with an impunity not granted him in real life.

Mario Varga Llosa

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